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Belgium's Great Beers

Understanding the styles

Local specialities

Many breweries in Belgium produce characterful beers that defy categorisation. Van Honsebrouck's very strong (11.0 per cent) Ch‰teau/Kasteel Beer, aged in a castle or mansion house at Ingelmunster, East Flanders, is perhaps comparable to a strong Old Ale or dark-brown Barley Wine in the English-speaking world. A wide range of strong specialities is made by De Dolle Brouwers, at Esen, near Diksmuide, not far from Ostend. These "Mad Brewers" are a family of professional people (an architect, a doctor...). They stepped in when their local brewer retired due to ill-health. They operate the brewery at weekends, and open a sample room and shop (9.0-7.0 Saturdays; 2.0-7.0 Sundays). It is a fine example of a country brewery - and its beers are well worth tasting. So is Grottenbier Bruin, partly aged (for one to two months) in limestone caves, and turned weekly like Champagne. This project has been a long-term dream of the ever-inventive Belgian brewer Pierre Celis. The beer is made by the De Smedt brewery, noted for its Affligem range. The "Grotto Beer" is a strongish (6.5abv) dark ale, in which small quantities of "exotic" spices are added to create a gentle, balancing dryness and crispness. A lover of pale Barley Wines would enjoy the powerful but beautifully-balanced Bush Beer, at 12 per cent, a Belgian classic from Dubuisson, of Pipaix, in Hainaut. In the same province, the town of Binche (between Mons and Charleroi) is famous for its pre-Lenten Carnival. It local brewery, La Binchoise, makes a range of honeyish, spicy-tasting, beers. North of Bastogne, near the small town of Houffalize, the Ardennes hamlet of Achouffe has a well-known speciality brewery. Its emblem is La Chouffe, a bearded gnome wearing a red hood. The brewery La Chouffe has a tavern and dining room serving dishes prepared with its beers (tel 061-288147, fax 061-288264) and a shop selling its products. The principal beer, made with soft (piney?) spring water and coriander, has great complexity and delicacy, and can be laid down to mature.

THE STYLES
Belgium's Great Beers: An Overview
Lambic Family - White Beers - Brown Beers - Red Beers - British-style Ales - Amber Belgian Ales - Saisons - Trappist Beers - Abbey Beers - Golden Ales - Local Specialties - Golden Lagers - Luxembourg


Published: JULY 30, 1999
In: Beer Hunter Online

Beer Styles

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